I’m not going to lie – my parents spoiled my sister and I with the purchase of our very own car when we became of driving age. I’d like to think it was because of how generous they were (and still are), but I have a sneaky suspicion that the purchase was sparked from growing fears of us wrecking their own cars. Whatever the real reason, we were very thankful to have our own car to tool around in. Just for clarification, my sister is two years older than I am which meant that she got to drive this car for two years before I did. She turned 16 in 1988, and I in 1990.
So there it was. A beautiful evening in the fall of 1988 and my parents presented my sister with the keys to a highly used 1983 Pontiac 6000 LE with a 2.8L V6, 3 speed automatic transmission, power everything, and faded gray paint. To me, it was the coolest thing ever. To my sister, it was just a car. I was still two years away from obtaining my driver’s license, but I wanted to treat that car well. More than anything, I didn’t want her trashing it for two years before it became mine!
Unfortunately, she made my life very difficult during that time – because to her, it was just a car. She even ran it off the road and into a tree just shortly after my parents gave her the keys, so you can only imagine how much that tore me up. She was destroying my pride and joy! Really, I did the best I could for those two years to keep in clean and in good running order – and I was very thankful that it held together until I got my driver’s license and she went off to college in the summer of 1990.
Ironically, I rear ended a friend of mine two weeks after I got the car while driving out of the high school parking lot. I felt like such a moron. I had literally been agonizing about the way my sister treated this car for the two years leading up to this, and I wreck it in the first two weeks. It wasn’t a bad accident, as you can see by the pics – just a wrinkled hood and cracked grill, but it probably would have cost more to fix than the entire car was worth, so we didn’t fix it. So there it was – my first lesson in automotive responsibility. I got to drive around a wrecked car for the rest of my high school years.
It was from that point on that the car didn’t seem like such a jewel to me anymore. Of course I didn’t beat on it, but I started to realize it wasn’t the garage queen I had made it out to be in my mind. By the end of my senior year in high school, my best friend and I had competitions to see whose car could become the dirtiest. Living on a dirt road, this was not a difficult thing to participate in. We aimed for the mud puddles after each rainfall and tried to get mud on the roof – that was the ultimate. Mud on the roof meant instant victory, and I was the champ more often than not. Poor car.
While my Pontiac 6000 was dirty often, I did take pride in cleaning it and making sure it was running well. The cleaning part was fun and easy but my dad and I pretty much hated the mechanical portion of it. Neither one of us were mechanically inclined when it came to cars so any little problem it developed meant a trip to the mechanic. Once again, my parents spoiled me rotten here – they paid for pretty much all of the repairs. Thanks ma and pa – you’re the best!
As mentioned earlier, this car had the carburated version of GM’s 2.8L V-6. Power was anemic and was rated at 103 horsepower and 125lb-ft of torque which, looking back on it now, was probably a good thing for an enthusiastic but inexperienced driver such as myself. It was painfully slow. It was also quite painfully unreliable – I can’t count the times that it just flat out refused to start and left me stranded. I also remember it having idling issues – sometimes it would idle fast, and other times I’d have to put it in neutral and keep my foot on the gas to keep it running at stoplights. It was a very moody automobile.
There really isn’t much else to say about the rest of the car. Early 1980’s cars from General Motors were just flat-out bad, and this car was no exception. Even though this 1983 Pontiac 6000 was the sporty “LE” version, it contained no essence of sportiness at all. Yes, the wheels were cast aluminum, but the rest of the car (especially the interior) was adorned with unnecessarily frilly trim. Cushy seats, chrome switches and trim – this car had an identity crisis in a big way. It was trying to be sporty but it had no soul to back it up.
But for all the abuse I put this car through, it survived. I put about 10,000 miles on it before my dad got sick of it and traded it in on a new car (for himself) several years later. They gave him $50 for it, and he took it. Seriously, how much does that say about what he thought of that piece of junk?
Being my first car, it will always think of it fondly – especially whenever I drive past a fresh mud puddle. RIP, 1983 Pontiac 6000 LE!